Thursday, November 22, 2012

Play vs. Education

I am a teacher.  My husband is a teacher.

My mother taught preschool and religious education while my father was an auto body repair teacher.

Craig's mother taught second grade and his dad was a high school basketball coach.

My grandfather was a college professor while my grandma taught Italian to students travelling abroad.

With all the emphasis on learning and becoming an intelligent and educated person that runs in our is actually the least I'm focused on right now with Natalie.

I don't worry about teaching her the ABC song or making sure she can count to ten before her second birthday.  We don't practice writing her name or identifying her colors.

All that stuff can wait.

Right now I want her to learn obedience and to mind when Craig or I ask her to clean up her toys or stop petting the dogs.  I want her to feel free to play creatively and without boundaries.  I want her days to be spent running, jumping and building confidence in herself.  She needs to figure out relationships with other children and how to successively navigate group dynamics.

My philosophy is that at this point in time, her learning must be organic and child-led.  She needs to show us what she is interested in playing with and learning about.  Right now she loves all kinds of animals, pretending  to read books, taking care of her babies, cooking in her kitchen and building with blocks.  Sure, we can incorporate counting and vocabulary lessons into her play but it's just not one of my priorities.

This week Natalie and I have rocked babies to sleep, read countless stories and built block towers taller than her only to be knocked down by an excited toddler.  "Boom!" she cries as the blocks scatter across the floor.

Ultimately of course I want her to be a lifelong learner but I just don't think you create one of those by shoving academics down the throat at such a young age.  Both Craig and I are intelligent creatures and value a good education.  But I want her to be passionate about learning new information and I feel like pushing too much too early would do more harm than good in the long term.

There will be time for learning letters and figuring out addition and subtraction.

But it's not now.

Today we play and sing songs.  We build towers and shush our babies to sleep.  We will dance around the living room and play chase through the kitchen.  We will throw balls and pat puppy dogs.

We will cultivate her creativity, her confidence and her curiosity.

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